The Podio acquisition announcement and subsequent demo at Citrix Synergy last week brought on a lot of applause, and while that was going on, Brian and I looked at each other and shrugged. We were both thinking the same thing: "Been there, done that." The closest thing that comes to mind when watching the short demo is that Podio looks an awful lot like Sharepoint with a Facebook theme on it, but there has to be more to it than that, right? In fact, it brought back memories of the last time Citrix went down the advanced-portal-with-apps route with NFuse Elite. I remember sitting at a Bob Evans in Independence, OH getting the briefing from Sequoia Software about how great it would be. That acquisition was valued at around $185 million, and it fizzled away in a slow and unnoticed demise.
At the time, the thinking was that the world would be all about portals. It's actually a simliar story to today: The web is going to take over, and the apps will all be delivered by the browser. If you don't have a portal, you have no way to get your users connected to those apps. We had IE6 to help us on the way, Windows was king, Mac was almost non-existent, and the phone on everyone's hip (yep, hip) was the Motorola StarTAC or something. We quickly learned that IE6 was a wreck, and that all the controls written for them essentially meant that the apps were locally installed apps anyway. As fast as the portal idea came, it went away. We were left with Sharepoint, which has ruled the roost until today. (I'm sure there's a lot more history there, so feel free to post about it in the comments)
So, it's natural that Podio would evoke some sort of emotion that brings out the memories and the wise-ass remarks from old guys that have seen this before. The thing is, we're twelve years past that initial foray into being everything to everyone, and the world may just be ready for a change. Here's why.
Rather than thinking of Podio as a portal or a Sharepoint clone, consider this: It was mentioned as part of a keynote in which Mark Templeton led with a discussion about the post-PC era. The post-PC era, as we've explained, is not so much about moving beyond computers at our desk as it is about moving past Windows being the de-facto standard interface to our applications and data. So far that's easy enough to grasp, but if Windows isn't the answer, what is? I think that's where Podio comes in. Set aside all this "team workspace" talk--that's what Podio does now--I think Podio is going to be the new "desktop" (the concept, not the device).
It's not there now, but picture a future Citrix offering that connects all of the user-focused products. Podio could provide access to Windows, SaaS, and native device applications via HTML5 Receiver (just the Receiver could be HTML5 - the apps can be anything from HTML to HDX), or even the clientless VPN access to internal web pages that they showed in the keynote. They could also enable custom made workgroup apps using their native application feature, as well as any of the collaboration products offered as part of Citrix Online. The interface would be completely customizable, and the users would have a single place to go for everything, rather than having to remember to go here for one thing and there for another. Plus, it would provide browser-based access to a user's data via Sharefile, not to mention all the team workspace stuff that it does now.
I'm sure there's more to it, and probably completely different paths of thought. BriForum speaker Dan Brinkmann is excited about it, so I'll connect with him over beers in London next week to find out why, but I wanted to throw this out there to see what everyone thinks. Is Podio the future, or a bust? What do you think it will grow up to be? If they left it alone is it something you would use, or does it need more?
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